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Tories accused of ‘naked gerrymandering’ by Labour as boundary changes put MPs at risk

PUBLISHED: 19:25 13 September 2016 | UPDATED: 01:15 15 September 2016

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

Supplied by Tulip Siddiq

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has slammed proposals to radically change constituency boundaries in the country as “naked gerrymandering” after new plans showed her seat could turn Tory in the next election.

New constituency of Hampstead and Golders GreenNew constituency of Hampstead and Golders Green

Boundary changes announced today could see the constituency maps of Hampstead and Kilburn and Finchley and Golders Green torn up and redrawn - putting both Ms Siddiq and Conservative Mike Freer at risk of losing their seats.

While Holborn and St Pancras and Hornsey and Wood Green would remain relatively intact under the Boundary Commission’s proposals, Hampstead and Kilburn would become Hampstead and Golders Green - meaning the seat, once the tightest three-way marginal in the country, could become a Tory stronghold.

Ms Siddiq, who won Hampstead and Kilburn with a majority of just 1,138 in 2015, said: “The Tory boundary review is naked gerrymandering. The arbitrary reduction of 50 elected MPs under the guise of ‘reducing the cost of politics’, while the Conservatives pack the House of Lords with donors and political advisors, severely compromises the integrity of our democratic process.”

Under the proposals, Highgate ward would be transferred from Keir Starmer’s constituency of Holborn and St Pancras to the new Hampstead and Golders Green, while Labour-leaning Brent wards would be lost.

Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer wasn't troubled by Iain Duncan Smith's jibeHolborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer wasn't troubled by Iain Duncan Smith's jibe

Hampstead and Golders Green would gain the affluent, Tory-controlled Barnet Council wards of Hampstead Garden Suburb and Childs Hill from Mr Freer’s existing seat of Finchley and Golders Green, as well as Highgate, which is currently split between Labour and the Green Party.

Mike Freer, who currently holds a majority of just over 5,000, said he was “saddened” by the plans, which would see his seat of Finchley and Golders Green split into three different constituencies.

Mr Freer said: “The initial proposals are radical and split long establish communities, as well as having cross council boundaries.

“The proposals have some merit but I am hoping that some amendments can be made to ensure these community links are not destroyed.”

New boundaries of Holborn and St PancrasNew boundaries of Holborn and St Pancras

Proposals include the creation of a new seat, Finchley and Southgate - which would include East Finchley, and would be likely to fall to Labour.

And confusingly, Golders Green ward would pass to the existing seat of Hendon, currently held by Conservative Matthew Offord - rather than being given to Hampstead and Golders Green.

Holborn and St Pancras Labour MP Keir Starmer echoed Ms Siddiq’s view that the proposals will disadvantage the Labour Party.

He said: “The boundary review will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters – particularly those in already unregistered groups – and it clearly favours one party above others.

Catherine West MPCatherine West MP

“As for Holborn and St Pancras, I am very concerned that the review proposes that Highgate, Bloomsbury and Holborn and Covent Garden wards would no longer be part of my constituency.”

Proposals include removing the area south of Euston from Holborn and St Pancras, but giving the constituency the wards of Junction and St George’s, which currently form part of Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North seat.

Although he commands a virtually unassailable majority, Mr Starmer said he was “very worried” about the “unfair changes” being proposed in neighbouring Hampstead and Kilburn, and called on residents to participate in the public consultation.

He said: “I hope the Boundary Commission and the government listen to local concerns and ensure constituency boundaries are decided fairly.”

Hornsey and Wood Green boundaries  mapHornsey and Wood Green boundaries map

Hornsey and Wood Green, currently held by Labour’s Catherine West, would retain nine of its ten current wards - but would lose Stroud Green to Tottenham, while gaining Bowes ward from the existing Enfield, Southgate constituency.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West, who won the seat from Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone in 2015 with a majority of over 11,000, said:`”Rather than arbitrarily getting rid of 50 MPs, why are we not addressing the fact that the House of Lords has almost got 1,000 members in it? We’re not tackling the problem of an unelected second chamber. We could easily reduce that to 600 or so.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s seat of Islington North is one of those set to disappear, with much of it set to form part of a newly created constituency, Finsbury and Stoke Newington.

Mr Corbyn, who holds a large majority, said he is confident he will remain an MP if the proposals come into effect.

Last time such radical boundary changes were suggested, however, more than 60 per cent of proposals were abandoned after consultation.

Secretary to the Boundary Commission, Sam Hartley, said: “Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the commission’s initial thoughts – and during the next 12 weeks we want people to take a look and tell us what they like and don’t like about our proposals.

“Parliament has set us tight rules about reducing the number of constituencies, and making them of more equal size, and we now need the views of people around the country to help us shape constituencies that best reflect local areas. Use our website to tell us what you think, or come along to one of our public events to give us your views in person.’

For more information visit www.bce2018.org.uk

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